MYSTIC — While a four-alarm fire tore through a large warehouse-style building at the site of the Seaport Marine in downtown Mystic on Sunday night, neighboring small business owner Mara Beckwith was left helpless to watch on videos at home as flames rushed toward her Cottrell Street store.
Beckwith, owner of Studio M, watched on television until nearly midnight as firefighters battled heavy flames. She recalls the anxiety she felt, her boyfriend trying to comfort her, as she watched a plume of smoke blow toward the intersection of Washington Street and Cottrell Street. The anxiety reached a peak around 10:30 p.m. when videos showed fireballs and rumors were flying on social media about how the fire had possibly spread to neighboring businesses including her own.
On Thursday morning, however, Beckwith stood with a smile of relief as she discussed the upcoming show with local artist Eleanor Tamsky she was preparing for, and how grateful she was that firefighters had managed to save the neighborhood.
“I could not be more thankful for the community’s firefighters. They acted so quickly, and they were standing right here in harm’s way to protect these businesses,” she said Thursday from inside her festively decorated store at 29 Cottrell St. “I have a holiday sale this coming Saturday and it is only because of them that I am able to be here today preparing for it.”
Inside a now fenced section of the former Seaport Marine location, which is adorned with signs warning of asbestos and other harmful contaminants, the charred and damaged remains lie waste against the wet ground.
The 122-slip marina, which is located along the east side of the Mystic River, is owned by the Holstein family, which recently sold another marina it owned, the 155-slip Noank Shipyard, to Epum Holdings. Town officials said they have had regular contact with the family.
Outside the fence, however, businesses are happily opening their doors everyday and trying to move past the fears of Sunday night. On the north side of the property, Beckwith’s Studio M and nearby Market Realty LLC were both open, with clear and clean roads in front of them. A slight odor of smoke remained outside, the result of the remnants across the way, but there were no remaining signs inside any of the buildings.
After a hectic Monday with closed roads and power outages, detours were removed for traffic by Tuesday afternoon and cleanup efforts were well underway nearby. PC Restoration and Environmental Services Inc., of South Windsor, were both aiding in the remediation of the playground portion of Mystic River Park.
“Traffic is steady again and it’s pretty much business as normal,” said Gail Mills from the office at Market Realty. “We are very grateful that is how things turned out.”
To the south of Seaport Marine, staff at the Red 36 said they were also grateful the fire was contained, and said that they were fortunate to be able to receive a guided escort from the undamaged restaurant. Manager Sharon Combies said the business is open regular hours and happy to offer its full menu and bar services.
Combies led the restaurant’s team on Sunday, and they were finishing the shift when the fire erupted. A bartender had left just after 8:15 p.m., with no signs of smoke or fire whatsoever. By 8:55 p.m., however, the flames were shooting towards the sky, visible from the restaurant where staff was preparing to close the restaurant for the evening.
“The winds were blowing the other way, and we were fortunate that firefighters were able to lead us out so we could get home,” she said.
Morgan Yandow, membership director for the Greater Mystic Chamber of Commerce, said that aside from those directly tied to the Seaport Marine property, no businesses were impacted and all others are open to the public this week. She credited a strong, team-first approach by fire, police and first responders for keeping downtown Mystic safe.
“All roads and all shops downtown are open. We encourage everyone to come out, enjoy as they normally would and support their local businesses,” Yandow said.